Leading up to the parliamentary elections, the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) writes blogs about various parties’ election programmes, weighing the pros and cons from students’ viewpoint. Next on our list is the Left Alliance.
If realised, the goals in the Left Alliance’s election manifesto would significantly improve student welfare, but is the improvement of higher-education students’ livelihood currently a priority for the party?
The Left Alliance recognises the importance of student welfare in education policy
Hats off to the Left Alliance for their detailed plans to fix the student financial aid system. The Left Alliance wants to introduce a hundred-euro general increase in student financial aid, increase the number of months for which student financial aid is paid, and abandon the two-tier system applied to student financial aid. The proposed changes would reduce the role of loans in student financial aid and give students a chance to focus on studying full-time.
The Left Alliance also wants to provide student loan with an interest rate cap, which is something that SYL also wants. Over the past year, the interest rate of student loans has increased by 2.17 per cent. Students should not have to suffer from the steep increase in interest rates. For as long as students have to take out loans, the risk for the loans should be borne by the state. SYL sees the implementation of an interest rate cap or similar safeguard as something the government should at least promote.
However, I cannot help but think of the last parliamentary elections, when the Left Alliance promised a hundred-euro general increase in student financial aid. Will the Left Alliance prioritise the improvement of student welfare this time around, or is it all just empty words?
Increasing the number of starting places will increase the degree of education, but the study completion rate must also be improved
We commend the Left Alliance for their commitment to genuinely free higher education and increasing the degree of education to 50 per cent of the young age group. Furthermore, we give them praise for the intent to promote full funding for starting places using core funding provided via a funding model. Great! Increasing the degree of education will help solve Finland’s lack of skilled labour and make education more accessible, as more applicants will get a starting place.
Increasing the degree of education also requires improving the study completion rate. In addition to improving student welfare, it takes high-quality guidance and support services to make the study path easier. We must criticise the Left Alliance for not mentioning student support services in their election manifesto and for not aiming to increase the number of student psychologists and counsellors in higher education.
Promotion of university democracy requires concrete action
The Left Alliance is the only party to aim for the reformation of the Universities Act to increase university democracy and autonomy. SYL considers the promotion of university democracy important, but criticises the party for not including concrete pledges on it in their election manifesto. The election manifesto raises the question of what the Left Alliance’s vision is for the reformation of the Universities Act.
In the promotion of university democracy and the chance of students to affect their own affairs, the important thing to remember is the tripartite principle of decision-making. Students, professors and personnel must have equal representation and opportunity to influence at all levels of university administration and all stages of decision-making.
- Is the improvement of welfare a priority?
- No mention of support services, which are important for the improvement of the study completion rate
- No concrete action suggested for the reformation of the Universities Act
- A hundred-euro general increase in student financial aid
- Full funding for the increase in degree of education
- Genuinely free education, also for international students
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